Measured Speech

Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few” (v. 2).

- Ecclesiastes 5:1–3

Ecclesiastes contains wisdom for all of life, including the public, corporate worship of God. We see this in today’s passage as the Preacher outlines the approach we are to have when we draw near to God in His “house.” How do wise people enter into the Lord’s presence? The answer is that they enter with few words and with an eagerness to listen.

In worship, we are to express our praise to God verbally (Pss. 9:11; 30:4). However, if there is not time devoted to hearing from God, then we have not truly offered up worship that is pleasing to our Creator. While we are not to come before the Almighty as spectators who are seeking entertainment, we are to seek a word from Him upon which we will actively meditate and which we will apply to our lives. As Scripture explains, this is a listening to the very Word of God itself. Much of our services should consist in the reading of the Scriptures and the preaching and teaching of these oracles of the Lord (Neh. 8:1–8; 1 Tim. 4:13). For the congregation, this consists mainly of silent hearing that nevertheless demands the active engagement of our hearts and minds. Part of loving the Lord with our hearts and our minds involves paying close attention to His words for us (Matt. 22:37). Matthew Henry gives counsel regarding our duties in worship, particularly as we sit under the ministry of the Word: “We must diligently attend to the word of God read and preached,” and “we must resolve to comply with the will of God as it is made known to us.”

Offering the sacrifice of fools in worship is the antithesis of drawing near to listen (Eccl. 5:1). While such things as insincere worship—going through the motions without true heart conviction—are included in the sacrifice of fools, today’s passage emphasizes hasty speech as being the mark of the kind of praise that fools offer to the Lord. If we are to be “quick to hear” and “slow to speak” in our dealings with other people, how much more slowly should we speak when we go before the Creator (James 1:19)? As many commentators have noted, the point of today’s passage is that our words must not outrun our thinking. We are to remember the greatness of our God in heaven and that He deserves only sincere words that accurately reflect our hearts and minds (Eccl. 5:2–3). Our temptation is to go through the motions, to get the words out because we know we must speak to God. Often, this leads to hasty prayers and vows that are not well thought out. Those who seek to honor the Lord above all else will put thought into what they say in worship.

Coram Deo

When we come into the Lord’s presence, it is particularly important for us to be purposeful about what we say and how we listen. We should come to corporate worship expecting a word from God, namely, the faithful exposition of the Scriptures. Moreover, we should pray to the Lord with words carefully considered. We are to be quick to listen and slow to speak, responding to God thoughtfully that we might love Him with all of our hearts and minds.

Passages for Further Study

Mark 12:28–34
1 Timothy 4:13

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